Part I of II
Overview – Entropy Defined
In my years of experience in the engineering field dealing with the practical application of heat and mass transfer, I have applied the principle of entropy extensively in my work for more than two decades. In my broad search for a clear and concise definition of the term entropy I finally settled on one that covers all of the basics without being overly cumbersome…
In a nutshell, entropy is ‘the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity.’1
If you open any thermodynamics textbook and begin to examine the sections on entropy, you will find an endless assortment of formulas, equations, and explanations that can even make the average engineer’s head spin! However, behind all of the math and physics is one simple concept that is ALWAYS true – otherwise none of those complex formulas, equations, or explanations would bring us any closer to finding any of the sought-after solutions…
ALL NATURAL PROCESSES DEGRADE OVER TIME.
Now, you may hear of many fancy arguments about how given enough time and chance anything can happen. You may have even heard of people who manipulate the formulas of physics and thermodynamics to make this claim appear to be true. However, the only observable and repeatable (therefore provable) truth is the bedrock foundation upon which all of the laws of entropy are built – everything decays over time.
In fact, when speaking strictly of an evolutionary process, time is the enemy, not the friend of the evolutionist. This is because more time equals more decay and more degradation. They are, in mathematical terms, directly proportional.
As the length of time increases so does the degree of decay.
The Boundaries of Entropy
In Acts 4:24 we find a company of believers along with Peter and John proclaiming, ‘Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.’
The physical universe as described in Acts 4:24 is known as a closed system. This simply means that it contains all of the matter and energy that it will ever contain, and will not receive any matter or energy from an outside source. In fact, by definition, that is exactly what the universe is – a collection of everything that exists in our physical realm.
(The Lord has also created much more than our physical universe; but, that is a topic for another article.)
The physical laws that govern our universe also place necessary boundaries on the behavior of the elements of our universe. This has been designed in a manner such that all behaviors of physical entities can be both consistent and predictable, thus making the place in which we live a place we may also understand and in which we can function productively.
When examining the formulas and concepts of entropy, one may easily become lost in the numbers and theories and come to an erroneous conclusion that any existing energy in a system is available energy. In other words, just because energy exists does not mean that it is useful in a process.
To illustrate this with a simple example, at the time of the writing of this article the average automobile still runs on gasoline. As long as gasoline is available in the fuel tank, the automobile engine (and all of the systems dependent upon the engine for energy) will be able to function. However, if the automobile runs out of gasoline it will no longer function. Even though there may be several cans of gasoline in the trunk of the automobile, until someone (an ‘outside’ force or agent) pours fuel from the cans into the proper part of the automobile system specifically designed for fuel retention and usage (the fuel tank), it will not function.
Entropy, Creation, and Abiogenesis
There are 3 things entropy NEVER allows:
- The spontaneous creation of something from nothing
- The net increase of matter and energy from an original state
- Any full-cycle perpetual (self-propagating) process
Let’s take a few moments to examine each of these points in just a bit more detail, comparing each to elements of the Creation account as found in God’s Word…
- The very first verse in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) tells us, “In the beginning God created the heaven (literally ‘heavens’) and the earth.” In fact, Genesis chapter 1 records that everything was made at a specific time, at a specific place, for a specific purpose. The remainder of the Scriptures expound further in great detail upon the purpose of the elements of God’s Creation.
The key phrase in Genesis 1:1 is ‘God created’, which demonstrates a deliberate and purposeful act.
Moreover, in agreement with the limitations of the Laws of Physics and Thermodynamics, this record of the creation of our universe gives a specific beginning from an Agency (God) outside the universe.
This further agrees with the statement found in Hebrews 11:3 where we read, ‘Through faith we understand that the worlds (literally ‘ages’) were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.’
- Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that, “there is no new thing under the sun.” This phrase and its like are repeated numerous times throughout this writing penned by King Solomon. This agrees with the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy which is based on the principle that the universe is a closed system. This physical law allows for the conversion of matter to energy (or vice versa); but, it never allows for the net loss or gain of the total amount of matter and energy.
To explain this principle, let’s consider a piece of paper that has been set on fire. The matter in the paper becomes ash (carbon) while releasing a small amount of gases (carbon dioxide, etc.) and water vapor. The remainder of the matter is converted into heat and light energy that we see and feel in the form of fire. If we were to collect every last atom from the process after the paper was burned up and compare them to those in the sheet of paper before it had been burned we would find exactly the same number and type of each atom.
Of course, they would be grouped together differently forming different compounds, and some would be fragmented having given off energy. However, if there were a way to collect every last fragment down to the tiniest subatomic particle we would have exactly the same particles as we began with.
This is so with the entire universe. Things are changing and rearranging all of the time; however, we are neither losing nor gaining the total of our matter and energy. Although, according to the Laws of Entropy (as well as numerous other physical laws) our universe is ‘winding down’ in the same manner that a wind-up toy only runs for so long on the energy it is given in being wound up.
We are experiencing a ‘net entropic effect’ in the universe where ‘randomness’ or ‘chaos’ of all processes left to themselves continues to increase – which means order and ordered processes continue to decrease. This, in fact, is the very essence of the definition of entropy.
- The reason why this third limiting principle is so important in understanding the creation of the universe is that it sets in motion the principle that every ordered process requires a directed motivator. Objects do not simply increase in complexity because the matter and energy exist for them to do so any more than sending a tornado through a junkyard will produce a fully-functional automobile.
As we have already seen in this article, the presence of existing energy and/or matter does not equal an ordered process. This is the reason why the theory of abiogenesis (the spontaneous formation of life from non-living matter and existing energy) is not only poor science, but actually violates the Laws of Thermodynamics altogether.
Existing Energy and/or Matter ≠ an Ordered Process
When we couple together two passages from the New Testament regarding Creation we learn some very important facts that agree completely with they physical laws being examined in this article…
‘All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.’ (John 1:3)
‘…all things were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.’ (from Colossians 1:16-17)
The first thing we learn from these two passages is that God alone made all things. This is a principle we have already examined in this article. A more intriguing fact that is revealed in these two passages though, is that God is the One responsible for making all things ‘consist’…
The Bible identifies God as the outside motivator that binds and directs all ordered processes in the universe.
In Part II of this article we will continue to examine the Law of Entropy in light of the Newtonian Physical Laws and the Scientific Method, also known as ‘sound scientific (or logical) process for establishing physical laws and proofs.
1. Adopted from Merriam Webster Dictionary Online, Entropy definition 2B.
1. First Law of Thermodynamics, Engineering Toolbox, http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/law-thermodynamics-d_93.html
2. Second Law of Thermodynamics, Engineering Toolbox, http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/law-thermodynamics-d_94.html
3. Third Law of Thermodynamics, Engineering Toolbox, http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/third-law-thermodynamics-d_416.html
4. Zeroth Law of Temperature, Engineering Toolbox, http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/zeroth-law-temperature-d_1489.html
1. All Bible quotes in this article are taken from the KJV.
2. Bible passages in double quotes (“) appear exactly as found in the KJV.
3. Bible passages in single quotes (‘) have been modified for emphasis or ease of reading only (such as capitalization of pronouns referring to God, bolded text, or modernized punctuation, etc.) without altering the actual wording of the text.
Hi Dr. Burton!
I hoped you could clear something up for me about entropy and its relation to evolution and life. I’ll state what I understand to be the case and please let me know where I’m going wrong.
We agree on all points about what the Second Law does not ostensibly allow. It is true that the basic idea of the Second Law is that everything decays over time, but it does not stipulate WHAT decays or becomes disordered. In evolutionary terms this must mean that we do not look at life on earth as isolated, meaning energy is taken from the environments in which we live in: For animals it’s food, for plants it’s light, etc. This energy is then used to generate order within itself through lots of chemical reactions. But the interesting thing is that chemical reactions are often COUPLED in the cell. Meaning you have two reactions: One that obeys the Second Law by having a net loss of free energy in what is known as an ‘energetically favorable’ reaction, and one that is coupled to this that creates order through a net gain of free energy in what is known as an ‘energetically unfavorable reaction. But this net gain is always LESS than the net loss. The excess energy is then released as heat into the environment which then disorders the surrounding matter thus obeying the law.
As it relates to evolution, one might be tempted to say “This still doesn’t account for evolution because it doesn’t explain how a species gets MORE complex, it just explains how it maintains itself.” Well the problem with this is that there isn’t just one energetically favorable reaction driving an unfavorable one, there are hundreds! It’s a chain reaction of one favorable reaction after another until enough energy is finally built up to make a more powerful unfavorable reaction. But all the while the favorable reactions are obeying the law by releasing more energy into the surrounding matter than is used by the unfavorable reactions. So things get more complex when more reactions are added.
In summary, the Second Law allows for evolution because life is not isolated. The disorder caused by cellular functions is released through energetically favorable reactions which drive energetically unfavorable reactions that are used to create order in the cell while a greater amount of disorder is released.
As I see it, this pokes a hole in your assertion. Am I going wrong here?
Thanks so much for your response to my article on entropy.
Before addressing you comments, please allow me to ask one question…
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
Your response will allow me to respond to your commentary from the proper perspective.
In His Love,
I follow Christ in the same way Francis Collins does. Dr. Collins is an accomplished scientist who did work on the human genome project. Both he and I believe there does not need to be a conflict between science and religion. I believe in evolution and the Big Bang, but I also believe in the God in the bible.
But I would prefer you answer from a strictly scientific perspective.
It is very interesting that you state that you ‘follow Christ’ as someone else does (James 2:19, 2 Peter 1:20). Nevertheless, your response does tell me what I need to know to provide an appropriate response to your commentary.
We are in agreement on one very significant point – ‘good science’ and Scripture are not opposed to one another. This is because God is the Creator of all of the scientific principles that govern our universe. Therefore, any good scientific discussion must, of necessity, begin with the Creator and not with the ‘creation’.
As a follower of Jesus Christ I understand that death came into the world as the result of sin. This principle alone makes belief in the Bible and evolution mutually exclusive because evolution requires millions of years of death before mankind is ever realized as a ‘species’ – thus taking the responsibility of sin and death away from man’s disobedience (Genesis 3 & Romans 5:12) and making the necessity of the atoning death of Christ on the Cross (Romans 5:8) null and void. It is in fact literally impossible two separate an explanation of science from the Creator who himself created that science.
If you believe in the Bible, then you must also believe that God is the Creator of all things that exist (John 1:3 & Colossians 1:16-17). These things include the very science and laws of nature that exist in our universe. Just as he created these laws he also created the law of life and the law of sin and death (Isaiah 45:7). Now if we consider the law of life this is the law that he created when he brought life into the universe by creating all of life. However according to the Scriptures death did not enter into Creation until man disobeyed God, thus fulfilling the law of sin and death which is in perfect agreement with the Second Law of Thermodynamics AND the observable and provable principle of physical degradation and decay upon which it is founded.
Please read my article again carefully and you will find that I have already addressed the points which you bring up in your commentary.
Next month I will be addressing Physical Laws and the Scientific Method which will explain why some of the statements made in your commentary in the form of suppositions are not considered to be ‘good science’ because they attempt to blend theory with fact.
Thank you again for your interest in this topic.
In His Love,
Dr. Jack L. Burton
I am quite disappointed in your response. I asked for a scientific discussion and you turned it into theology. Take notice fellow readers.
First, as to Andrew’s comments. The fact that there are hundreds of “favorable” reactions in each cell driving one “unfavorable” reaction does NOT explain evolution. All that statement does is describe how complex cells are. To scientifically support evolution, you must explain how one kind of creature (i.e., a fish, mutates into another, more complex kind of creature (i.e., a land animal) based SOLELY on accidents.
This may or may not have anything to do with entropy, as narrowly defined by scientists. But it certainly implicates the broader principle that complex creations never create themselves. One thing is for certain: macro-evolution has never been observed to happen.
This leads to my second comment. I am somewhat skeptical as to the idea that the universe is a closed system. It certainly would be if there were no God. However, the Bible says in a couple places that God, through Christ, sustains the universe. Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:3. The Bible clearly indicates that in at least some instances, matter/energy has been created within the system (i.e., the feeding of the 5,000).
Anyone who has ever been responsible for caring for anything (say an aquarium) quickly finds that a lot of effort must be put into simply maintaining the system. No one can simultaneously measure all of the matter and energy in the universe, must less compare it over time. I tend to think that if one could make such measurements, one would be forced to abandon the idea of a closed system. I think it would be more accurate to say that God maintains the universe to such a high degree of uniformity that, for all practical intents and purposes, we can rely on the assumption that matter is not created or destroyed.
There is some biblical support for this. In the final chapters of Revelation, we see fruit that can be eaten. This means that even in eternity, entropy is at work. I believe the difference (as compared to the curse described in Romans 8) is that with Adam’s sin, the universe became disconnected from God. Although God continues to maintain it, the universe is degenerating because of sin and must ultimately be destroyed in order to finally do away with sin, the curse, and death. In eternity, entropy will continue to operate but there will be no net loss because the entire system will always remain connected to God, who has infinite power to sustain it.
Thank you for your comments and insights.
Please allow me to address your comments regarding the universe as an open or closed system.
Let’s consider what the Scriptures say concerning Creation and all that exists in it.
Genesis 1:31 KJV…
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
Here we learn that the Lord has finished all of His work on Creation. There is no more to be done (this is also reiterated in Exodus 20:11).
John 1:1,3 KJV…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Jesus (the Word), as God, has created all things. Nothing that exists was created without Him. This all took place “In the beginning”.
These all refer to the ‘physical realm’ in which we exist – the current place we abide created specifically for us by God.
However, God Himself is outside (above) our existence in time and space. He has power over and beyond all the elements of His Creation. This is His ‘supernatural’ (meaning ‘above the natural’) work.
These miraculous events do not alter our physical laws, they actually supersede them. Thermodynamic entropy remains intact and our universe remains a physically closed system as it was created.
We are not carnal, but spiritual, if we are in Christ (in contrast to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Nothing in the physical universe can save us from God’s supernatural judgment upon sin (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-50).
That is the Door that opens when one comes to Salvation. That Door is Christ (John 10:7-9).
In Christ’s Love,